Every industry has had its pioneers, people who have set the tone for what's to come next. And as is our custom, whole industries become enamored of these pioneers. Suddenly, everyone is emulating these people who, for one reason or another, have started a new trend. In radio, Howard Stern has definitely been one of these trend-setters. "The King of All Media" spawned dozens of individuals and morning show teams who felt it necessary to walk right up to the line that enables a station to either keep their license or give it up. I would say Jim Rome has also been a broadcaster who has set the bar for other sports-talk hosts. In fact, here in St. Louis, amongst the 6 different stations that have Sports as a format, there are at least 27 different Jim Rome wanna-bes...all talking smack and getting in each other's grills and doing outstanding takes and the whole 9 yards. (to utilize more sports terminology)
Then there's Rush.
As a left-leaning independent, I would say that Rush Limbaugh would be the last guy with whom I'd share a Delirium Tremens. (He doesn't really strike me as much of a craft-beer lover, anyway) But as a broadcast professional, I would say that he has transcended and transformed talk radio. Listen to any major market (the stations that still have at least one local host, that is) and invariably you'll come across a Rush-clone verbally pounding Nancy Pelosi or firing pot-shots at celebrity eco-terrorists like Bono. Politically, I disagree with Rush about 95% of the time. But he has clearly been a major force in our industry. (when Rush had hearing difficulties and the rumors were flying about the possibility of him hanging up his headphones, the seismic panic tremors that gripped talk radio program directors around the country kicked in at "11" on the Richter Scale!)
Having worked at Talk stations for the past 8 years, I can attest to some of the techniques that some talk radio hosts and program directors use to "light up the phones". A local priest is accused of stealing from the diocese and the majority want him out? Stick up for him, and then listen to the calls come in. The head coach has decided to go with the back-up for the weekend's game? Interview the starter on the phone and try to get him to say that the coach should not return for next season. Informed dialogue on the air is simply not enough sometimes. I've seen hosts come into my studio to record a promo and tell me that although they believe a certain thing to be true, they're going to latch on to the other argument, just to get the phones to ring. It happens all the time.
I would think, though, that "El Rushbo" would be beyond something like that. Rush rarely takes calls anyway, so that's why his comment the other day about Barack Obama, saying "I hope he fails", is mystifying. Simply "taking the other side" is just a gimmick, and certainly the man "with intelligence on loan from God" would not stoop to such ploys...which makes his comments even that much more bizarre. I read the transcript so that I could get a sense of his comment in it's entire context. However, I'm still baffled. Why would he say that?
I've tried to keep the Barack-Obama-as-Rock-Star-World Tour in its proper context. I'm naturally pessimistic and basically distrust anything that smacks of messianic overtones. I watched all the debates and, frankly, I thought Hillary trounced him, which is why I voted for her. But I've always tried to keep an open mind about him, and the others. I'm glad Tuesday is over with, because the real business at-hand can be addressed. At a time when so many things are at critical-mass, I just want someone to start something so that some progress can be made. If it had been John McCain repeating Justice Roberts' mangled Oath of Office, I would be sitting here surfing news websites looking for any information I could get that would signify that he had made some progress in succeeding at addressing the huge pile of dilemmas we face.
But the last thing I would say about the huge task facing Barack Obama is "I hope he fails".
Maybe home foreclosures don't affect wealthy millionaire broadcasters in West Pam Beach as they do out here in middle America. Perhaps the EIB Network supplies Rush Limbaugh with an extravagant medical insurance program so that the reality of having no coverage is completely foreign. Or maybe hundreds of Clear Channel employees losing their jobs this week has no direct bearing on a guy who's show is on those same Clear Channel stations. But I want him to not fail. We need him to not fail. And if it had been John McCain or Ralph Nader who had taken the Oath this past Tuesday, we would have wanted them to not fail, too.
Rush, you like football. You were actually pretty good when you were sitting in on the ESPN Sunday Night Countdown, right before you made another obtuse comment about Donovan McNabb. Remember that one? So, you'd agree that even if members of the team don't like the coach, the goal is the same: get in the end zone, right?
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